Juliette wrote this article for the Yogakrant . Would you like to read more articles like this about yoga and ayurveda? You can find this beautiful newspaper at yoga schools and you can of course take out a subscription .
Back to the heart of yoga
Although yoga seems to be ubiquitous, modern yoga has lost a number of essential principles. Until the 15th century, before patriarchal systems began to influence yoga, the practice was integrated into everyday life. Intimate with life.
Yoga today is hip. Nowadays there are many possibilities to practice yoga. In a yoga studio on the corner of the street, in the park or at your favourite gym. The many expressions or styles of yoga make it accessible to a wide audience where both men and women are welcome.
In the tantric tradition of India, Nepal and environs that lasted about 1000 years from the 5th to the 15th century, there were forms of ritual practice very similar to the sun salutation we know today. Christopher Tompkins, Indologist and Sanskrit scholar specialising in the tradition of Tantric Shaivism, has studied ‘divinely revealed’ writings from this tradition for a long time. What he found in all Tantras is a unique and innovative Yoga-Sādhana.
Influential yogis like Krishnamacharya and Yogananda have always referred to these texts in their teachings: Shastras. However, later researchers did not believe that these texts existed. Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga, is even said to have been inspired by PH Ling’s Swedish gymnastics for his Vinyasa Krama teaching. He himself always said that he learnt this from his guru Ramamohana Brahmachari, with whom he stayed for seven and a half years in a cave at the foot of Mount Kailash.
The unique Yoga-Sādhana of this tantric period involved a daily ritual performed in a specific order and named as: ‘Vinyasa-Krama’. This ritual integrated into family life was practiced by both men and women as a direct participation in Life. Connected and intimate. With life, with each other.
What later became known as Surya Namaskar, the sun salutation, has its origins in this daily ritual practice, which varied from Tantra to Tantra, where a twelve-part posture sequence was practiced with mantra and breathwork.
However, due to the emerging influence of patriarchal and religious movements, this ‘life-affirming’ tradition was increasingly suppressed. A number of aspects of the tradition were incorporated into the spiritual practice then only permitted for men. And much of it has been lost.
Krishnamacharya, (1888-1989), has done his utmost to revive the heart of yoga within his own capabilities and cultural upbringing. For example, he taught women at a time when yoga was only accessible to men. And was his vision that yoga education should be adapted to the age, capabilities and cultural background of the student. He made a case in India for the ancient yoga not to be adulterated by mixing it with gymnastics and wrestling and expressed the hope that future generations would continue to use the source texts.
Some of his students have been of great importance to the development of yoga in the West. In addition, each student passed on his personal experience and so various yoga styles were developed, all of which had the same basis. For example, Krishnamacharya gave young energetic and dynamic students challenging exercises to maintain their focus. The very active yoga styles, based mainly on strength, stem from this because some of his later famous students only spent a short period of time with him in their youth. His teaching of middle-aged women, however, was completely different.
Krishnamacharya’s efforts to revive the heart of yoga have partly succeeded. Yoga has been lifted from oblivion: today 1.6 million people practice yoga in the Netherlands, both men and women. However, a number of principles have largely been lost in it due to both Western and Eastern influences.
Fortunately, those lost teachings of authentic yoga are extremely simple and can be applied in any contemporary style of yoga. So that yoga goes beyond gymnastic postures, hierarchical systems, or far-reaching ideals. Back to the heart of yoga: a life-affirming practice, intimate with life.
As simple as breathing in life itself.
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Juliette Reniers is together with her partner Frank Eijkelkamp, owner of yoga & Ayurveda retreat center The Land of Now, and yoga teacher & therapist, Ayurveda practitioner/therapist & teacher, psychosocial counselor. In their teachings they take you to the heart of yoga. To the essence: the ‘lost teachings’ of authentic and breath-based yoga. Supported by the richness of Ayurveda.